You get the feeling somehow that Justine never really took any time off. I'm sure she does, but lordy, lordy lordy the girl does play a lot!
However, Gold Coast gave us a perfect demostration of Justine's perch in the tennis hierarchy. Excluding an opening set loss, 1-6, when she clearly was recovering from partying FAR too hard
, Justine ripped off six straight sets of 6-2 or better.
16 6-0 6-2 def Daniela HANTUCHOVA (SVK)
QF 6-2 6-1 def Anca BARNA (GER)
SF 6-2 6-2 def Daja BEDANOVA (CZE)
Which is exactly what a solid top ten player should do against outside-the-top twenty competition.
It says, 'Last year wasn't a fluke.'
, pretty clearly.
Then she loses to Venus Williams in straight sets. Again, that's as last year was as well. I think Justine is licking her chops waiting for another shot at Venus on clay.
So Justine isn't as good as Venus yet. Big deal. She'll get better. She's the younger player. And she has something now no one but Serena usually has. Going into OZ, Justine knows EXACTLY how Veus is playing. And she has a week to make adjustment and think about it. I think the sheer pace of the game when they play Venus is a shock to many players. If they meet again at OZ, Justine will be ready. Whether she'll execute or not is another matter.
Venus executes under pressure better than anyone else on the tour.
Justine still had breakdown ocasionally in high pressure moments.
It took Venus four years to go from where Justine is now to where Venus is now. And a lot of that is growing up. Gaining control over your body and your emotions. Justine does the kind of things under pressure that used to drive you crazy about Venus in 1999. Playing brillaintly while losing. Inexplicable unforced errors. DERANGED shot choices about once a tournament.
It must be nice to be so talented you can play like a not-quite-completely-disciplined teenager and still be one of the ten best in the world. It's gotta beat High School.
She's ready to roll. But we aren't going to see the best of Justine Henin in 2002. She won't be finished growing up in only a year. Barring injury, she's virtually guaranteed to be even better in 2003 and 2004. I don't think that GS title is coming this year, but it's coming. The talent's all here.